Coming to you, once more, from the floor of the 2017 FairMormon conference at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo.
Ben Spackman, in an excellent address titled “Truth, Scripture, and Interpretation: Some Precursors to Reading Genesis,” laid out a strong case, in effect, for the fallibility of scripture. His argument is quite congenial to me. I can’t recall ever having been a scriptural inerrantist. I probably was as a child, to the very limited extent that I thought about it, but I honestly don’t remember ever holding such a view. While I hold a high view of the fundamental claims of scripture, I’ve never needed perfection or inerrancy from the scriptural texts, and I don’t think they demand it.
Given his background in Semitics, science, and the history of Christian thought, Ben is perhaps uniquely qualified to address this subject.
I find that many of the problems that certain apostate or disaffected critics have with the Church would be dissipated by adopting something like Ben’s view (and my view) of the scriptures and of modern prophetic and apostolic statements. As it is, when I try to interact with such critics, both sides often become quite frustrated. We’re talking past each other, and they think I’m trying to twist, evade, or discard the teachings of my church leaders.
This was a very important talk, from my point of view.
He has now, by the way, put up a supplemental item on his blog: “FairMormon, some papers, and books”
Speaking of inerrancy, the FairMormon conference program lists Ugo Perego’s title as “What Does the Church Believe about Revelation?” But his actual subject is “What Does the Church Believe about Evolution?” Those are somewhat different.
His topic flowed very nicely from Ben Spackman’s. And it was vintage Ugo. In other words, quite funny.
Dr. Perego — who is currently a bishop in Rome (one of the few ecclesiastical titles that I genuinely envy) — argues for a fundamental harmony between science, including evolutionary science, and revelation. What happened on the Earth before Adam, he says, isn’t of fundamental importance or concern to the Brethren, and if it isn’t of urgent importance to them, why should we obsess about it? He laid a lot of weight on the 1909 First Presidency statement on “The Origin of Man.”
He closed with a couple of helpful comments about the Book of Mormon and current DNA research. In doing so, he alluded to this article in Interpreter:
And he criticized genetic claims from Rod Meldrum.
And, at the very end, he referred to a recent study dealing with the DNA of Maya skeletons. It’s been trumpeted by a few anti-Mormons recently as yet another death knell for the Book of Mormon. He and I have spoken about this, and he has spoken with one of the authors of the study. Unfortunately, he was out of time at the end of his talk. But I can tell you that he’s not exactly overwhelmed by the claims of Book of Mormon skeptics on this point.
Finally, an excellent question for Dr. Perego: “As a bishop of Rome, you’re infallible. Doesn’t that make you right on evolution?”
I think it unfortunate that the Maxwell Institute sponsored a small conference yesterday, colliding directly with the first day of the FairMormon conference. Even Sunstone calls to make sure that its annual conference doesn’t run concurrently with FairMormon.
Of course, maybe the folks at Maxwell had no alternative. I don’t know. But it’s regrettable.
This weird factoid came across my computer screen just a few minutes ago:
The Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia (1844-1913) believed that, whenever he was ill, all he had to do in order to feel better was to eat a few pages of the Bible.
It gives new meaning, I suppose, to the commandment to “feast upon the Word.”